Paul Di’Anno’s Battlezone- Fighting Back (1986)

Paul Di’Anno will forever remain a heavy metal icon for fronting Iron Maiden through their first two albums.  While he has had a prolific career since Iron Maiden, his projects have been relegated to the metal underground.  The reason for this, to be frank, is that most of his work has been relatively mediocre with a few shining moments scattered throughout.  Paul Di’Anno’s Battlezone was the man’s second “solo” group attempt since Iron Maiden fired him years ago.  It basically sounds like an attempt to recapture the raw and energetic feel of his time in Iron Maiden, and it is successful in doing so.  The problem is that the songwriting cannot stand up against those classic records, and the production on this album is hideously lo-fi.

Fighting Back is the name of this 1986 debut, and Di’Anno’s punk roots are very evident in the delivery.  Being released at the very end of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement, this is far faster and rougher than most NWOBHM had been before.  No, it is nothing compared to Venom or Atomkraft – although Di’Anno does occasionally sound a bit like Tony Dolan – but it is certainly too coarse for the British metal fans who had no interest in anything more aggressive than Saxon or Grim Reaper.  “Welfare Warriors” is the best example of this violent delivery being utilized to show Di’Anno’s frustration with society and government support, and the great irony of course is that Di’Anno would eventually be incarcerated for welfare fraud decades later.

Some songs like “Feel the Rock” are an attempt at more accessible, anthemic songwriting which come off a bit strangely because the production does not match the style of metal they are trying to deliver.  The most annoying aspect of the production is how the songs awkwardly fade out at the end, even though the songs were clearly not written to fade out.  They end on a drum crash most of the time that just gets quiet and goes away, which is not how crash endings are supposed to be.  They should be explosive; that’s the whole point of them.  The fact that the guitar sounds so tinny is no bonus, either.

“The Land God Gave to Cain” is a long and epic, but merely average metal song that manages to elicit very little emotion, which is the issue with most of these songs.  The riffing is catchy and the solos shred intensely, but that is not enough to make a superb metal album.  There is no atmosphere on this release, and everything sound like it popped out of a tuna can.

I give this album two-and-a-half stars because it is fairly consistent in its delivery, being a simplistic high-energy traditional metal assault that manages to never be either fantastic or boring, with just enough good composition to keep the listener interested in little hooks here and there.  Unfortunately, it’s really the production that weighs this album down.  It did have potential to be great, but it fell short.

-John Mahon III

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